A key multiple sclerosis itching symptom (pruritus) can cause burning pain. Pruritus is part of the abnormal sensations experienced in multiple sclerosis (MS) which can feel like pains and needles, burning, stabbing, or tearing pain. This type of pain is neurological in origin.
Pruritus can come on suddenly and intensely, but it only lasts for brief moments. It can affect any part of the body, including the face. It is different than an itching sensation, which may follow an allergy, as it does not result in a rash or skin irritation. Additionally, common corticosteroids applied topically do not offer relief from this sensation, but there are other medications that can aid in treatment.
Multiple sclerosis patients aren’t the only ones to experience pruritus. Individuals who suffer from seasonal allergies, hay fever, asthma, eczema, diabetics, HIV/AIDS patients, some cancer patients, pregnant women, and the elderly can all experience pruritus as well.
In multiple sclerosis, itchiness is a neurological symptom. In some patients, changes in temperature can trigger itchiness, and for others, the onset of itchiness has to do with certain movements. Itchiness commonly occurs at night, but it is not limited to this time only as it can arrive at any moment throughout the day. Intensity of itchiness may worsen at night which awakens MS patients, often leading to sleep disturbances that can worsen other MS-related symptoms.
There are different types of itchiness in multiple sclerosis, including paroxysmal (itchiness starts and stops abruptly), frequent (itchiness occurs six or more times a days), short duration (itchiness lasts for a couple of seconds or minutes), nocturnal (itchiness occurs typically at night), connected to other symptoms, symmetric (itchiness occurs anywhere on the body on both sides), and triggered (the itchiness is a result of a trigger).
As mentioned, itchiness in multiple sclerosis is generally caused by neurological sources, but other causes of itchiness are disease-modifying medications, along with allergic reactions to multiple sclerosis medications like interferon beta-1a (Avonex).
Some common triggers for multiple sclerosis itchiness are changes in heat, or certain movement or tactile stimulations.
Multiple sclerosis itchiness can be quite irritating, especially if it keeps you awake at night. As mentioned, common topical corticosteroids generally are not effective in treating MS itchiness, but there are other treatment options available.
Medications to treat MS itchiness are anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and antihistamines. Alternative remedies like practicing mindfulness in order to reduce stress has also been seen to be helpful for those experiencing itchiness.
Scratching is not recommended as it can promote further itchiness, and scratching too aggressively can lead to injury of the skin, sometimes causing bleeding or infection.
Some individuals experiment with cold and hot packs, but if heat is your trigger, avoid it at all costs.
If itchiness is accompanied by a rash or blisters, speak to your doctor as it can be a sign of an allergic reaction, which may not be related to multiple sclerosis, so other treatment may be required.
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